Review: Hands Like Houses – Reimagine

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Hands Like Houses have a knack for doing the unexpected. Ever since the Australian rockers made their Rise Records debut with 2012’s Ground Dweller, the band has set themselves apart with an infectiously melodic sound that borders on heavy without succumbing to faux breakdowns or typical scene conventions.

Instead, Hands Like Houses have paved their own path of aggressive rock mixed with ambient, electronic elements and spacey passages – a sound that came to full fruition on last year’s Unimagine. Now, the band has taken the opportunity to revisit that album and re-imagine five of its tracks for their new EP titled, well, Reimagine.

The release is akin to the band’s Snow Sessions, a 2012 live outdoor acoustic recording of select songs from Ground Dweller. However, where Snow Sessions passed as a simple acoustic take on those songs, Reimagine digs deeper, utilizing far more elements and stretching outside the bounds of what one might consider a simple acoustic recording.

The EP kicks off with “recollect” a new version of Unimagine’s heaviest track, “Shapeshifters”. The song feels almost completely new, sidestepping its former upbeat pace in place of a patient, calm soft rock movement. The track features both electric and acoustic guitars, a groovy bassline and a notable lack of hurry. Instead, the light instrumentation helps the song float along at a pleasant pace.

For a band known for their crescendos and crashing moments, this opening track is an unexpected shift that highlights a completely new and surprisingly delightful side of the band. As the EP progresses, the beauty lies in the band’s ability to capture each song’s meaning within its new context.

“revive (Introduced Species)”, a song of birth and new beginnings, features wonderful, warm percussion amidst its new bouncy sound. “rediscover (No Parallels)”, a song of joy, features sweet strumming guitars and backing whistles behind the song’s bright chorus.

Another notable difference on Reimagine is vocalist Trenton Woodley’s choice to pull back the reigns. Noted for his soaring upper register and powerful voice, Woodley chooses restraint during most of the EP, saving himself for only the most powerful moments.

It’s not until the fourth track that Woodley lets loose, during the pain and confusion of “release (A Tale of Outer Suburbia)” as he sings, “So I roar, pin back my ears and stone by stone / I’ll tear it all, I’ll tear it apart”. The song, which now lives as an echo-y stripped down shell, seems to rattle amidst its surroundings as Woodley howls.

It’s these sorts of moments – the payoffs that we’re so accustomed to no longer wait for – that set Hands Like Houses apart from their peers. A band with true musical talent and an ear for real melody and song structure that’s able to strip their songs bare and rebuild them as something completely new and just as engaging. If only there were more bands willing to take these sorts of chances in this scene.

“reflect (Developments)”, now no longer a burning opening track but a quiet, atmospheric closing number, captures the gentle heart lying beneath the original song and brings things to a peaceful close. Reimagine is a wonderful bonus for fans of Hands Like Houses who have come to expect these sorts of unexpected turns.

To revisit your own songs and come away with what sounds like brand new material is truly a feat. It surely won’t be their last.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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